October 31, 1517

Almost 500 years ago today (495 years ago to be specific) one brave soul dared to take a stand against what he saw as 95 serious problems in the established church of that time.

Martin Luther lived during a time when only a few people owned Bibles. The Gutenburg Press had begun printing the first Bibles that were available for the common people, however they were still written in Latin.

Martin Luther was a devout Christian Monk. He became angry when he discovered that the Pope had authorized a man named Tetzel to go out into the community to sell what was known as “Indulgences.” The money from these sales was being raised to help pay for the building of St. Peter’s Bascilica in Rome. The people were told that purchasing these Indulgences provided them forgiveness from sins, even for sins dead people had committed, and that these purchases made it possible to move their dead loved ones from purgatory into heaven.

Martin Luther wrote a list of 95 Theses why the practice of selling indulgences went against the teachings of the Bible. On October 31, 1517 he nailed this list to the door of his church.

Of course Martin Luther’s 95 Theses made the church officials very angry. Before long people began taking sides, some with Martin Luther and others with the established church. Martin Luther was excommunicated (thrown out) of the church. Many of his followers left with him and the Protestant movement was begun. Luther died a natural death, only because he managed to escape from those who would have taken his life for his stand against the church of his day. He spent much of his life in hiding as he translated the Bible into the German language.

Who are the Martin Luthers of today? Are we passionate enough about our faith to take a stand? Do we have a faith that’s grounded in the Bible or in popular cultural beliefs?

A Grandmother’s Prayer

A GRANDMOTHER’S PRAYER

Lord, I come to you today
and lift my prayer to you.
Please be with my grandkids,
in everything they do.

Help their little eyes to see
only what is good.
Give them mouths that speak the truth
and say the words they should.

Give them ears to listen well;
please help them to obey.
Give them feet that follow you;
don’t let them go astray.

Help their minds to understand
the things that come from you.
Give them wisdom through your Word
to know what’s right and true.

Surround them with your angels,
and keep them in your care.
Help them, Lord, to turn to you
and talk to you in prayer.

As they grow and as they learn,
please teach them right from wrong.
And when they face temptation,
Lord, help them to be strong.

Teach them how to love and care
the way you want them to.
Help them to experience
the joy of serving you.

Lord, please bless these little ones
with blessings from above.
Give them faith and give them hope,
and fill their hearts with love. Amen.

From: My Grandma and Me-rhyming devotions for you and your grandchild, by Crystal Bowman. Tyndale House Publishers

A Touch of Gray and Ounce of Wisdom

Once again the breakfast bar at our kitchen counter was strewn with homework papers and books. There was no place for a cereal bowl or even a spoon. I was frustrated. How many times do I have to tell her to put her stuff away? It was late. I was pooped.  She’ll hear about this in the morning.

Yet, the morning came, and I was unusually chipper. Amazing what rest can do.

She stumbled down the stairs into the kitchen on her sleepy mission to prepare for school. I had a choice. I could conjure up my frustration from the night before and let it fly. Or I could pull her aside, place a loving arm around her shoulder, and turn her toward the breakfast bar. Then ask calmly, with a lilt in my voice and a grin on my face, “So my dear, how do you expect anyone to eat breakfast with all your stuff on the counter?”

I chose the latter. I chose it because I’m a bit older, grayer, and wiser these days. You see, I’m parenting for the second time around. I have four mostly grown and launched children who have flown or nearly flown from the nest. They were my guinea pigs. I tried all sorts of parenting experiments on them. Thankfully they’ve lived to tell about it.

Yet in the middle season of my life, with my nest appearing more empty than full, God brought me new test cases—three little girls. Sisters. Filled with pain. Needing a mom. And believe me, I feel woefully inadequate for the job. Most days, I shoot up prayers for wisdom on a moment by moment basis.

But on this morning, I had an extra ounce of wisdom.

“I’m sorry,” she said.

“You are forgiven,” I said. “And loved.”

You see, I figure she can’t hear those words enough.

And truth be told, neither can I.

What words do you long to hear today? Perhaps your kids need to hear them too.

Is Perfectionism Wrecking Your Prayer Life?

I have always known that I suffer from a perfectionism complex. So when I heard the quote, “Perfectionism is the mother of Procrastination,” my ears perked up. Finally, I understood why I’d been putting off certain tasks that I told myself I wanted to get to.

As a storyteller, I have put off making a CD of my work. I thought about it once, but then it went to the back burner where it’s been for the last four years or so. Why? Because I’m worried that I won’t get it “just right.” I’m worried that it might be a flop. And how many times a day do I find excuses to delay working on one of my writing projects for the very same reason?

I spend hours Googling other storyteller’s CDs, listening to tracks here and there, reading articles about producing a CD or writing books, but despite all of this “research,” very rarely do I move myself closer to my goal. Instead, I lose valuable time and in the process find that now I’m even more concerned that I won’t be able to live up to my perfectionist ideals. So maybe it’s not worth starting.

This whole idea has been revolutionary to me in my professional life, but today I was shocked to find the same principle at work in my prayer life. I don’t feel like a very good “pray-er.” I’ve read about all sorts of different prayer methods – from the ACTS outline, which says that every good prayer is comprised of Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving and Supplication in that order, to those who say that prayer is more about listening and being still before God than talking.

So when I think about praying, I have this feeling that I’m not going to get it right. And what does that do but make me less inclined to want to spend time in prayer! When I do sit down and attempt it, half the time I’m so worried about the form that the content suffers severely.

Today I realized that what I’ve been trying to do is “edit” my prayers. And honestly, it makes it hard to have an authentic conversation when you’re busy editing. I’m sure you know what I’m talking about. It’s the difference between chatting with your best friend and delivering a speech to an audience of 3,000 strangers.

In the former, you let it fly. You trust that your friend “gets” you, and that even if it comes out all over the place, your friend will understand. In the latter, you plan for hours. You systematically order your points. You practice your enunciation. The strangers in your audience cannot be expected to try to follow your ramblings.

As a writer, both the form and the content are important to me. But the interesting thing is how the writing process is structured. Most writers agree that the content comes first. That is, you lay it all out there on the first draft. You pour your ideas onto the page. You don’t worry about going back to add a comma or fix a misspelled word.

You don’t edit as you go because editing stunts the creative process. It hinders the progression of the story. (Not to mention the fact that the act of creating and that of editing are handled by two different parts of the brain. So in some ways, to try to do both at once would seem to put them in competition with one another.)

So back to prayer. Today as I started praying, I felt like it was coming out all discombobulated. I felt the need to start again. Try to put it into a more coherent form. I felt the need to “edit.”

But then I stopped myself. I said, “God knows that I am discombobulated. He knows that my ideas are random. All over the place. So I guess it’s no small miracle that my prayers come out the same. But who better than He to help me make sense of it?”

I took a deep breath. I started again. I let it all out. I stopped worrying about “getting it right.” I told Him everything – even the silly little things that would make me sound petty if I said them to you. I figured He already knows, and if it’s irritating me, I might as well get it out in the open

I’m sure some would criticize my form, but I’m okay with that. Because I think my Heavenly Father got it. I think He gets me. And I think sometimes I have to worry less about “getting it right” and more about just getting to it. Maybe Nike was on to something. . .

So I leave you with this question: What are you putting off because you’re afraid that you won’t get it right?

 

 

 

 

Children & Prayer: Two Lessons

Recently I remembered an extraordinary day 25 years ago. I call it the day the children prayed in church.

There was no junior church that day. The pianist was out of town, the song leader had a scheduling crunch, the children’s “preacher” had to work. So after Sunday school the third through sixth graders filed into the sanctuary. Some sat with their parents, some with a teacher. The parent helpers for junior church positioned themselves behind a row of boys.

The junior choir, previously scheduled to sing that day, stood in the choir loft, ready to offer their worship in song. The three who played the triangle, hand drum, and tamborine didn’t miss a beat.

Just before the sermon, the minister stood to lead in prayer. As he always did, he first told the congregation of some of the needs that day: the family flying to Africa to attend a missions conference, the beloved widow recovering from an extended illness, the injured police officer slowly regaining his strength but needing encouragement. Then he asked if there were other concerns.

That’s when it happened.

Katie leaned over the choir loft rail and reported that one of the sixth-grade girls, who had diabetes, had just been hospitalized. Then Ricky, seated with the row of boys, raised his hand. He wanted to praise God because one of the other boys was out of the hospital.

A man in the back asked for prayers for a new church plant. A woman asked for healing for someone who was ill. Then Chrissy, seated up front with her mother, suggested that we pray for her Sunday school teacher’s husband, who was facing serious surgery.

And then we prayed, adults and children together.

Memorable moments. Children had never participated in our services quite like that before.

Thinking back on that day emphasizes two lessons for me.

First, that children belong in the “adult worship service” more often than we sometimes allow. Children need to worship with adults at least part of the time–it’s one way the spirit of worship is “caught.’

Second, the impact of good training. The children who joined our service that day had been taught by example and through practice how to care about the needs of others and to ask God for his help. They did it each week in children’s worship. It could just as easily have been taught in their homes and reinforced at church.

We need to remember that our children and grandchildren are living now, not just getting ready to live. And that what they are taught–or not taught–affects their lives today as well as in the future.

“Let the children come to me,” Jesus said.

They did–and he blessed them.

A recommended book: The Lord’s Prayer, illustrated by Richard Jesse Watson (Zonderkidz, 2011)

DIANE

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© 2012, Diane Stortz